Is carbon trading a solution to global warming?

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Carbon Trading is often put forward as the solution to global warming. In reality, it is just a licence to pollute. The thrust behind the proposals to use Carbon Trading as the solution is twofold, firstly it extends the idea of the free market as being able to solve all problems and secondly it tries to put the blame on individuals rather than on big business.

There are two basic types of Carbon Trading the large formal plans like that of Kyoto that allow governments and companies to earn and trade carbon credits and the more informal sector were charitable and for profit organisations charge a fee to organised offsets on your behalf.

Some of the problems of carbon trading include that firstly, it involves taking out carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) rather than stopping it from going in – most plans involve planting trees. Secondly, it cannot be accurately accounted – so for example if a polluter pays for a scheme that allows it to increase carbon gases by a certain amount there is no guarantee that this amount will be recovered from the atmosphere.

For those plans that do prevent carbon gases going into the atmosphere eg investing in solar power , wind and other renewable resources there is no guarantee that the plans to decrease carbon going into the air would not have happened anyway without the extra pollution that was allowed for. These problems apply for both formal plans like Kyoto and even more so for the informal sector.

Much of the emphasis of recent media on Carbon Trading is each individuals carbon burden i.e. the amount that each of us as individuals contribute to carbon use and hence to global warming – conveniently these multi national media companies ignore the fact that overwhelmingly largest amount of carbon gases is produced by corporations.

They also ignore the fact that that the amount that individuals can do to reduce carbon use depends on there income – i.e. you can only afford energy efficient appliances a flash new energy efficient car and green electricity if you have the money. Research commissioned by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence has shown that a household reliant on unemployment benefit would find it costing them twice as much as a double income with no children if carbon taxes or emissions trading were applied.

Carbon Trading is not the solution to global warming. Large companies are the ones that produce carbon emissions and will continue to do so as long as they can make a profit. The only way to prevent them from making a profit from polluting and to start repairing the damage already done is to nationalise these companies under workers control and management so that they are run for the good of society and the environment as a whole not just for their wealthy owners.

By Gary Duffy